The Archives

A Hutchmoot Request

It's going to be a busy week. There's a Hutchmoot coming. Starting tomorrow, upwards of 70 staff and 150 attendees will begin traveling from around the world (literally) to convene here in our neck of the woods for four days of music, literature, good food, great conversation, and sweet communion. Our 30+ speakers are hard at work putting the finishing touches on a fantastic array of sessions. Walter Wangerin, while in relatively good health, will be traveling from northern Indiana, and I know travel is hard on him. Chef Lewis Graham is taking a deep breath and getting ready to jump into an insane four days of back-breaking work, and so are the many volunteers that are on their way to help him. Kate Hinson is descending on the church with a van full of decorations that she's spent all year carefully thinking about and assembling. Other volunteers are about to start loading books and boxes and tables and chairs and (metaphorically and literally) setting the tables for the arrival of our guests. Musicians are rehearsing and thinking about which of their many songs are perfectly suited to play to this specific audience. Sound engineers are counting microphones and cables and trying to figure out how to make it all work flawlessly. I feel a little like one of those old guys you see in baseball movies---the ones quietly chalking the field in the big empty stadium as they make the last preparations before all the noise of the big game erupts. I believe spiritual warfare is a reality. I believe the enemy is not only real but smart, and I believe when he sees the forces of light maneuvering for a push through the lines, he's not foolish enough to let it go unanswered. So I humbly ask that you remember in your prayers this week all those who work so diligently to make Hutchmoot happen. Pray for their health---physical, emotional, and spiritual. Pray that those behind the microphones will be led by the Holy Spirit to convey what they alone could not. Pray that those in the audience will find what they come to find, leave what they need to leave, and return home equipped with something they cannot lose. We love doing this. Pray we have the grace, humility, and energy to do it well. I believe the enemy hates Hutchmoot. I don't know about you, but I take great comfort in that.  

New Release: The Shadow Can’t Have Me (by Arthur Alligood)

Arthur Alligood has a nice surprise for all of us this week with the unexpected release of a brand new album, The Shadow Can't Have Me. For those who've heard Arthur play his newer material, whether at North Wind Manor, the Local Show, or Hutchmoot, you'll recognize the vulnerable beauty at work throughout these songs that document the journey into and through the valley of the shadow of death. A community reading of Psalm 23 is the introduction to the album, and the psalm's theme is woven throughout the ten songs.  Arthur-Shadow-Final Arthur writes the following about the album: "I am of the opinion that it's never too late to bring some good news into the world. Well, my current good news, or "gospel" if you will, comes in the form of a new album entitled, The Shadow Can't Have Me. This is not a perfect album, it's mostly a collection of one-take demos, some even written on the spot. The fragile nature of the record is fitting because these songs arose out of the last couple of years of my life---a very broken season for me. These are gospel songs for those in the valley---songs that confess the shattered nature of everything and in the same breath point to a hope that is real and eternal. In summation, this is an album for people walking through hell. If you are in the thick of such a journey I pray these songs do what I would hope any song of mine might do. I pray they help." You can stream the song "This Is The Way" below. The album is available for free at Noisetrade, but if you'd like to support Arthur (and his family) it's also for sale here in the Rabbit Room Store.

Martin and Marco enter the Challenge League!

It's the the epic fantasy of The Lord of the Rings and the playful humor of Calvin and Hobbes---all rolled up in one hand-drawn, rollicking burst of fire-breathing fun! It's The Dragon Lord Saga, and last year, a band of Kickstarter backers helped me publish this story that's so close to my heart. And now book 1, Martin and Marco, is going online---one sequence per week---in the Webtoons challenge league! Check out the first six scenes today, each viewshare, rate, and like is a vote for Martin and Marco to become a featured comic and supports further volumes of the Dragon Lord Saga! Click here to read Martin and Marco in the Challenge League! One new sequence each Friday!

In Brokenness, Hope

Most years I read at least one book that shakes me to the core. A couple dozen books into 2015 I read Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau, 2014) and it shook me up good. I simply cannot recommend this book enough. Please read it. Stevenson’s story of fighting injustice in our legal system is heartbreaking but nevertheless impossibly hopeful. We often think hopefulness comes from strength. In some instances, perhaps it does. Yet, Stevenson shows how the brightest light of hopefulness shines through the cracks of the broken human heart. Late in the book he offers this reflection on brokenness.

When I hung up the phone that night I had a wet face and a broken heart. The lack of compassion I witnessed every day had finally exhausted me. I looked around my crowded office, at the stacks of records and papers, each pile filled with tragic stories, and I suddenly didn’t want to be surrounded by all this anguish and misery. As I sat there, I thought myself a fool for having tried to fix situations that were so fatally broken. It’s time to stop. I can’t do this anymore. For the first time I realized my life was just full of brokenness. I worked in a broken system of justice. My clients were broken by mental illness, poverty, and racism. They were torn apart by disease, drugs and alcohol, pride, fear, and anger. I thought of Joe Sullivan and of Trina, Antonio, Ian, and dozens of other broken children we worked with, struggling to survive in prison. I thought of people broken by war, like Herbert Richardson; people broken by poverty, like Marsha Colbey; people broken by disability, like Avery Jenkins. In their broken state, they were judged and condemned by people whose commitment to fairness had been broken by cynicism, hopelessness, and prejudice. I looked at my computer and at the calendar on the wall. I looked again around my office at the stacks of files. I saw the list of our staff, which had grown to nearly forty people. And before I knew it, I was talking to myself aloud: “I can just leave. Why am I doing this?” It took me a while to sort it out, but I realized something sitting there while Jimmy Dill was being killed at Holman prison. After working for more than twenty-five years, I understood that I don’t do what I do because it’s required or necessary or important. I don’t do it because I have no choice. I do what I do because I’m broken, too.

Release Day Review: Hogan’s House of Music

A lot of you long-time Rabbit Room readers know Ron Block from his thought-provoking posts, his playing along side Andrew Peterson at the Ryman every Christmas, his sessions at Hutchmoot, or his nights at the Local Show in Nashville. But here's the thing about Ron: He’s a humble guy, and it's easy to miss the fact that he is also in one of the most successful bands of all time. Dude has won 14 Grammys. He's toured toured with Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Ralph Stanley, and lots more. He's played on the albums of major recording artists like Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Darius Rucker, Alan Jackson, Little Big Town, Reba McEntire, Randy Travis, and Vince Gill. He's even played at the White House---twice. I mean, come on! And in light of all that, one more thing I love about Ron: After twenty years in Nashville, Ron Block is still the only musician that has ever invited me over for dinner and said, “Bring your guitar.” I was in college when my ears first melted to the groundbreaking bluegrass of Alison Krauss and Union Station. Since then, bluegrass music has not-so-silently taken over the world, with AKUS as its standard bearer. The musicians of AKUS have always been some of the worlds best, including Ron, the band’s long time banjo player. Always stage left, stalwart and steady as the flow of the Appalachian’s mighty Nantahala, Ron has brought that most identifiable of bluegrass instruments to life for AKUS for over twenty years. And now, Ron has released his fourth studio album and first all-instrumental bluegrass album, Hogan’s House of Music.

Hutchmoot 2015: Session Schedule

The jam-packed session schedule for Hutchmoot 2015 has now been published. Check out to see what we've got planned. We'll be sending out a survey to registrants to collect information on which sessions you'd like to attend. The choices you make aren't binding, but they do help us determine basic attendance expectations in order to place the session in the most appropriate room. Also, Hutchmoot is only two weeks away! What?

This Isn’t How I Die

Being able to spend every day of life immersed in your passion is a dream for many of us. I am tremendously and gratefully humbled to say that I am able to do that. But for sixteen years, my wife Gina and I strived for this life, pleaded for it, worked away all spare time for it, always able to see its existence, but never sure when it would arrive, some days wondering if it really would. Some days we just didn't have it in us to keep carrying the fire. Maybe that is you. There were times when deadlines were mounting at my day job, and her job was wearing her thin. I would feel like the dream was futile. I would feel that failure was imminent. Like maybe it was all foolishness and I should give up and face what looked like reality. One difficult day alone could crush my soul. But then, on one of those soul-crushing days, I sent Gina an email from my desk at work. Somewhere in that email I paraphrased Edward Bloom from Tim Burton's film, Big Fish. I wrote: "THIS ISN'T HOW WE DIE."

Songs from the Shadows

A couple of weeks ago my Facebook newsfeed was invaded by a selection of animals urging me to go to the Rabbit Room Store and pre-order Andrew Peterson’s new album, The Burning Edge of Dawn. Never one to argue with a magical fairy squirrel beast, I swiftly obeyed. If you did the same, you will be familiar by now with the track “The Rain Keeps Falling.” Some songs become meaningful over time, the truth of their lyrics gradually finding a path into your soul. Others arrive without fanfare and claim a place in your story before the end of the first verse. For me, “The Rain Keeps Falling” landed firmly in the second category. As a writer, I am always tempted to write about struggle in terms of “we” and “our” rather than “I” and “my.” If I’m honest, it is not generally because of a deep sense of solidarity on the journey but rather a literary tool, allowing me to name my pain while at the same time maintaining a respectable distance. The truth is that the life of faith is often fraught with loneliness. Sometimes, when the heavens seem silent and the stories of victory are a painful reminder of your own weariness, hope is a song that is bleeding from the battle even as it whispers peace. To be both real and vulnerable in the pursuit and telling of the true story is not without risk, and I am grateful to Andrew, and others like him, for their courageous honesty. Not only because the result is stirringly beautiful but because it is a reminder that, even when we pass through a season of shadows, we are not alone.

Creating a Picture Book: Part III – Kickstarter and the Final Stages

[This is the third post about the creation of Ellen and the Winter Wolves. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.] I mentioned last time that I'm using Kickstarter to fund my picture book, Ellen and the Winter Wolves, so over the past week or so I've been preparing the campaign. That means shooting a video and thinking through what rewards to offer folks for helping out. Determining what something is worth is a challenge, let me tell you. It's been a lot of work, but it's ready and launches today! Go check it out! While preparing the Kickstarter I've also continued to work on the book, because, hey, it's still not done. I finally finished painting the images around August 28th. I then began scanning the pictures in order to create the files I'll need for printing. With scanning comes processing --- inevitably dust will stick to the paintings and get transferred to the files, so I had to go through each picture and remove the dust in Photoshop. I also balanced the color and contrast in order to best match the look of the original piece. Additional processing was necessary for a few of the images, though. I'm using three pictures in the book that I painted before I wrote it, and one of them needed some real work to match the story.

Finding Your Voice: A Pre-Hutchmoot Writing Seminar

Jonathan Rogers is once again holding a writing seminar the day before Hutchmoot kicks off. This year the subject is "Finding Your Voice." Check out the video below and click here to register.

New Release: Unhaunted

Jaron and Katherine Kamin moved to Nashville from California several years ago and released a hymns album produced by Andrew Osenga. Since then they've been quietly working on a new collection of original songs. This week they released the fruit of that labor in the form of both a new band name, Cardiff State, and a new EP, Unhaunted. We're looking forward to helping them celebrate this milestone by hosting their release concert at North Wind Manor on Saturday evening (with special guest Flo Paris). Admission is free but there are only a few seats left. RSVP to [email protected] if you'd like to secure admission. Unhaunted is now available in the Rabbit Room Store. And the title track is also available on In the Round Vol. 1.

The Dressing Room

School starts next week, so I'm sitting in a stall across from the stall where my teenage daughter is trying on clothes. I can see her bare feet, toes pointed together like I keep mine when I'm not sure about things. Every few minutes she opens the door to show me another pair of jeans, and I smile and say, "What do you think?" The floor is laminate with black and white speckles. It looks like television static unless you get too close, and then the shapes start to make faces. Pop music is droning over the speakers, mostly men with breathy voices singing about women they've either conquered or can't forget. There's a sticker on the three-angle mirror that says, "We love bargains as much as you do. Shoplifters will be prosecuted." It's an if/then statement. If you steal from us, then there won't be any good stuff for anybody. When I was a kid that warning made me think of missionaries who got burned alive and stoned, because I couldn't keep prosecuted and persecuted straight. Still, I figured that whatever happened to thieves served them right.

Tonight: The Burning Edge of Dawn Pt. 2 via StageIt

The second of Andrew Peterson's The Burning Edge of Dawn online Stageit shows takes place tonight at 9pm central time. Last week's show was a ton of fun, and we're looking forward to more of a good thing this evening. It's a pay-what-you-want affair. Tune it via the Stageit website, and we'll see you tonight.

Rabbit Room Podcast: Special Edition

In this special edition of The Rabbit Room Podcast, we preview Andrew Peterson's new podcast, The Burning Edge. In this first episode, Andrew talks with 14-time Grammy-winner Ron Block about his new album, Hogan's House of Music (amongst other things).

Shop Talk: Tools of the Trade

I recently came across an article by Michele Filgate on Literary Hub entitled "Writers and Their Favorite Tools." Filgate indulges in a bit of shop talk on tools of the trade, but also explores some of the nostalgia and memory behind why we use the tools we do. That, and this recent video my wife shared awhile back, got me thinking: if car enthusiasts can talk horsepower, and hunters can swap stories of guns and bows and calls, why can't we as writers and artists and singers talk about our favorite tools? So, whatever your artistic bent is, what are some of your favorite tools of the trade, and why? I'll start: When it comes to writing poetry or prose, I usually get ideas when I'm out walking, so I like to carry a pocket Moleskine. I also have a larger, paperback size Moleskine for when I want to do some longer form drafting without feeling cramped. I also recently purchased some Shinola Detroit small ruled page notebooks that I'm looking forward to trying. For writing with, I've long used the smooth Pilot G-2 05 gel pen. It just flows nice and lasts forever. Recently I discovered the Moleskine Roller Pen .05 mm Fine Point, which is really nice, although tends to smear because I'm a lefty. I did briefly try a Bobino pen that hides in the cover of my notebook, but I don't like it very much because it feels too insubstantial and the writing is dry and scratchy.